Perhaps the one detail that separates Cannes from the rest of its peer festivals across Europe and the United States, is that the whole world is watching. More so than any other film event with the exception of the Academy Awards, Cannes is a media feeding frenzy of red carpets, celebrity sightings, and a handful of obligatory publicity stunts. So what better platform for an artist to raise awareness for his country’s situation than a red carpet photo op?
And that’s exactly what Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho and the cast and crew of his latest film Aquarius did earlier today. After a few moments of stiff posing for the obligatory pre-screening smile-and-wave session, the 12-person contingent reached into their pockets and pulled out printed signs denouncing Brazil’s political situation in front of the international press.
While actress Maeve Jinkings stood in the middle holding a sign reading: “Brazil is experiencing a coup d’etat,” castmates like Sônia Braga and Irandhir Santos hoisted supplemental tidbits in English and French like: “The world cannot accept this illegitimate government,” “Chauvinists, racists and scammers as ministers,” and “54,301,118 votes on fire.” It’s a small gesture that nevertheless reminds us how dire Brazil’s current political situation really is.
Even the festival’s director Thierry Fremaux broke protocol as he stood atop the stairs with the Aquarius crew, and incited the festival’s videographers to continue filming the silent protest. Once inside, the crew also unfurled a large banner that read “Stop the coup in Brazil,” a gesture which elicited enthusiastic applause from the press corps in attendance at the screening.
Over the last week, democratically-elected president Dilma Rousseff was relinquished of power by a deeply corrupt opposition congress, and the country’s entire political future currently hangs in the balance. The situation is acutely felt for artists and creators given that the country’s Ministry of Culture was disbanded immediately after interim president Michel Temer took office representing the politically amorphous Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and installed a new cabinet consisting entirely of men.